Kerala Photo Archives – Towards a Visual History of Kerala Society

Living in the digital times, we are flooded with photographic images – our everyday communication is constantly punctuated and often driven by visuals, captured through umpteen cameras, not the regular cameras as earlier, but those in our iPads, tablets, or most predominantly, mobile phones. These images are circulated, shared, modified and stored endlessly.

But a photographic image meant a totally different artefact, process and experience a few decades ago. Every small village or town, leave alone cities, had a studio that met the photographic needs of the locality – passport size photographs for official/legal purposes, photos of various family functions, religious rituals, festivals and public events of all kinds were photographed by them. In time, these photo studios grew into a rich archive of photographic materials of that region or locality, village or town – a virtual repository of images of all the major events and functions, personalities and institutions in that area. In many cases, such images were kept and preserved by photographers, families and institutions in the form of albums or framed pictures, though today most of them are lost or destroyed by the ravages of time

This project, in the first phase, aims to salvage, preserve, document and archive the photographs/negatives that are available with old studios in Kerala. Though many of the old studios have closed shop, there still exist many studios that have migrated successfully into the digital era. There are also instances where some studios and photographers have taken care to store and preserve the old negatives in their custody.

The project also aims to salvage, document and conserve the photographs/negatives in the possession of individuals, families and institutions focusing in a specific administrative area like a ward or a select area of a Panchayat/Municipality.

For full details of the project, joining the research team etc; Colleges, Local Self Governments, Cultural organizations, local history enthusiasts, researchers and students can contact the Principal Investigator of the project by writing to PAMA.